Hope Floats in Majuli Island of Assam Amidst the Flood
In Assam, where the rising water levels of Brahmaputra River wreak havoc upon millions of farmers annually by washing away their croplands, what can be more beneficial than being able to cultivate on water? Though it sounds heretical, a few hundred farmers in the world’s biggest river island of Majuli in Assam have made this a reality. Thanks to the unique farming method, the hydroponics, in which the traditional use of soil is replaced with water. For this bunch of farmers in Majuli now the annual deluge means more water which further equals more cropping area.
Every year almost 38 per cent of the cropland gets completely and about 23 per cent gets partially submerged by floodwaters affecting nearly 77 per cent of agrarian land and bringing disaster to the community. This year too, over 1,875 hectares of cropland were damaged by floods in Majuli.
In the hydroponic method of farming, instead of the typical soil, plants are grown in nutrient solutions that supply essential elements needed for growth. Hydroponic trays, special containers designed to hold plants are used. It is found to be cost-effective in comparison to traditional agriculture with no requirement of tilling and sowing. Besides, the solvent can be recycled for reuse too.
Arun Kumar Pathak, a district agriculture officer in Majuli, said, “Around 90 per cent of Majuli’s population depends on agriculture, but the island remains submerged either fully or partially for almost four to five months during the flood. In this scenario, this new hydroponic technology is a game-changer. With this unique method, they can easily grow vegetables, shrubs along with several medicinal plants on water. The ponds, lakes and swamps can be used for such farming.”
The Director (Communications) of South Asian Forum for Environment (SAFE), a civil society organization promoting the hydroponics farming, Amrita Chatterjee, said, “In April 2015, the float-farming method of hydroponic was introduced in Majuli as an adaptive farming practice for marginal indigenous communities towards secured livelihood, flood preparedness and climate resilience. The main objectives of the intervention were to enable local capacities in hydroponic float-farming and aqua-culture as an integrated climate adaptive agricultural practice (ICAAP) for augmenting flood resilience in the island and to ensure sustainable livelihood and food security for marginal farmers and raise awareness about community-level disaster preparedness.”